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NHL 20 review for Xbox One, PS4


Platform: Xbox One
Also on: PS4, PC
Publisher: EA
Developer: EA Vancouver
Medium: Disc/Digital
Players: Multi
Online: Yes
ESRB: E10+

Hockey season is nearly here and it’s time to hit the digital rink on NHL 20. Last year I gave a rather glowing review of the updates given to the franchise and the new World of CHEL, so I was eager to see where EA took this year’s iteration. If you’ve read some of my previous sports game reviews, you know I’m a diehard football fan (that’s NFL football for all my international fans or domestic hipsters) and all other sports take a backseat. Having said all that, I do have some love for the sport of hockey and while I might not be a diehard, I do enjoy the sport. So my review is definitely one of a casual fan and my enjoyment will vary from that of a cutthroat Blackhawks fan, seeking every minor detail.

So where do I start with NHL 20? Upon booting up the game for the first time, it appears very much the same as NHL 19. The menus and settings that great you at start up are nearly identical to that of NHL 19, which had me a bit concerned. Then looking over the mode options my concern started to grow, as the modes looked to all be identical as well, until I found Ones mode has graduated and now can be played outside of World of CHEL. Ones is basically a triple threat (gratuitous wrestling reference) on half of a rink. Every person for themselves and highest score wins. Ones much like Threes is an arcade free-for-all and it also brings some wacky hijinks with it, as you can play as and unlock some of the team mascots to use. You can also unlock different environments to use. As a more casual fan, Ones drew me in and intrigued me more than anything else. I really like how quickly you can select your player and jump right into the action, while also having some objectives to try and reach to unlock more skaters and arenas.

Another drastic change is the removal of the NBC license/TV presentation as well as their commentators. This year we have a brand new commentary team; James Cybulski and Ray Ferraro. This might come off as a surprise, but I loved this decision. The commentary is some of the best I have ever heard in a hockey game, hell, even the best of 90% of sports games that are released now a days. EA is also stating that the team will record more commentary throughout the season to keep it fresh with more recent happenings and trends (one out of the Madden book). Normally, I am a strong advocate of using the TV license in these sports releases to make them feel more authentic, but here I don’t feel like I’m losing anything over NHL 19 and its NBC presentation. Actually I feel like the presentation is better than last year and I think the commentary flow really helps the game feel more natural.

Speaking of natural, the gameplay feels great and I really enjoyed last year’s game. Having played NHL 20, I don’t think I could go back to 19. I had a friend who is a hockey mark come by to check out the NHL 20 and he reaffirmed my thoughts of how smooth the game is. While on the surface it might not appear too different, it just plays so much better than NHL 19. On top of the smooth, fresh action, we also have the inclusion of team celebrations, which is a nice touch and for the hardcore fans; EA has even included signature shots for some players.

As I mentioned earlier, last year’s super popular World of CHEL returns with tons of new customization options for your custom skater along with new challenges and objectives. Also, what would an EA Sports game be without an Ultimate Team mode? (Which isn’t really a new mode, as it’s in every game at some capacity.) But this one has added some new features. Making its way over from the FIFA franchise is Squads, which has your team square off against teams that are updated weekly and some of which are created by celebrities and other pros. Many of the other modes are in the EA mantra: “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it” and I can’t spite them for that.

NHL 20 more than likely, is the last standing ovation for this current gen of consoles. I’m sure there will still be a new NHL released for the Xbox One and PS4, but I’m assuming most of the development team will move on to the next gen versions that most likely we will see during holiday 2020. That “not broke, don’t fix it” isn’t going to fly for me on the next gen systems, as I expect a new engine and new modes. But for this year and NHL 20, it’s a buy for any hockey fan. The gameplay has never been better and it carries over all the favorite modes from last year. I didn’t expect to be so glowing on this year’s release because on the surface this looked like NHL 19 the sequel, but I can happily report I was wrong and NHL 20 blasts a goal from the blue line.

EA provided us with a NHL 20 Xbox One code for review purposes.

Grade: A-